Monday, August 26, 2013


Two things to keep in mind about animated tv shows and features: They make a lot of money unto themselves. (Think Snow White's re-releases and video-casettes, silver disks, over seventy-odd years. Consider The Simpsons syndication packages.)

And then there's the gajillions in merchadise:

... "Despicable Me was an absolute blowout," says Jim Silver, editor-in-chief of, a website that reviews toys. "The retailers underbought it in a big way, and they are playing catch-up. Literally everything sold out. It was severely underestimated."

In 2013, U.S. toy sales will hit about $22 billion, according to data from the NPD Group, with a quarter coming from toys based on licenses from movies and TV shows ­-- the category that in recent years has grown most quickly. ...

Along with DM2, the top toys of the summer at Toys R Us, she says, were products from Disney's TV series Sofia the First and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which was reincarnated last fall by Viacom's Nickelodeon, spinning off boy-oriented merchandise that has been popular with kids, teens and adult collectors.

But it's not just the big hits. Sometimes the under-performers get traction.

... DreamWorks Animation had success with Turbo because of the popularity of car toys with boys. “Even if a classic movie property does not perform well at the box office,” says Toys R Us’s Harnisch, “we often find that the combination of classic play patterns, like cars and trucks, as well as lovable characters translate well at retail.”

“It was tough this summer and [Turbo] was also a new [line of products],” says DreamWorks Animation's head of global consumer products Michael Connolly. “It’s always hard to get in front of people, but Turbo has done a lot better than the box office indicates because it’s such a fantastic play pattern.” ...

DreamWorkers have told me that the company expected Turbo toys to be big, along the lines of Pixar's Cars, and one of the reasons the TV show was put into work before the movie was released. I've no idea if DWA came close to its aspirations in the ancillary product department, but here's hoping.

Of course the larger point here: toys, licensing, and games are major reasons animation is today such a huge part of the entertainment marketplace. The shows and movies are often ever-green, spewing out cash-flow for decades. And the merchandise that gets generated in their wake also becomes hugely profitable. Most live-action franchises (Star Wars excepted) don't come close to the performance levels of their animated cousins.


Alex Dudley said...

Glad Turbo's doing well for Dreamworks in that regard. I guess they're right that it'll be profitable for them in long run.

What about merchandise for animated shows geared towards older audiences? How well do they sell?

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